Joe Wereszynski is an International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.
Russia is an evolving market and its World Trade Organization (WTO) membership is positively influencing bilateral cooperation and business opportunities. We at the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Office of Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia have been working hard to help American businesses navigate Russia’s business climate. On May 30, under the auspices of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, we partnered with U.S. and Russian experts to hold a widely attended forum in Moscow on standards and conformity assessment.
Standards and conformity assessment barriers represent the largest trade barrier by volume in the world. With Russia’s newly inked WTO membership, we saw clear value in cooperating with Russia early in the nation’s implementation period to prevent barriers from arising.
The forum was co-led by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the World Trade Center Moscow. It attracted more than 300 participants and featured presentations by standards and policy experts from the public and private sectors including the U.S. Department of Commerce, the American National Standards Institute, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Underwriters Laboratories, the International Medical Device Manufacturers Association, the U.S.-Russia Business Council, the Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Federal Agency on Technical Regulation and Metrology (Rosstandart).
Matthew Murray, the U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia, stressed the importance of standards in global markets, and highlighted the benefits that cooperation on standards can have to U.S.-Russian economic relations. He announced that the Commission’s working group on Business Development and Economic Relations adopted a plan that, “identifies areas in which the United States and Russia envision a new chapter of economic cooperation, including capitalizing on new trade opportunities presented by Russia’s accession into the WTO.
“We are developing a common language, mutual understanding and consensus on appropriate commercial standards for regulating our products and services… while ensuring the right business conditions are in place to create fair, and predictable globally competitive markets for both U.S. and Russian companies to thrive.”
The forum brought together U.S. and Russian standardization bodies to foster greater understanding of each other’s systems and facilitate cooperation. As a result, both countries may increase cooperation to improve transparency and interoperability, by developing regulatory guides and creating a standards portal to help companies better understand market conditions and standards requirements.
Director General Vladimir Salamatov of the World Trade Center Moscow commented on this cooperation, saying, “developments in innovation in our two countries, and the world as a whole, have reached a level where it is necessary to devise common strategies and solutions in order for the economy to develop more effectively and to support the growth of production.
“We can confidently say that we have reached a mutual understanding on all the questions and also have made big plans for collaboration on future projects.”
A major theme of the forum was ensuring regulatory conditions do not unnecessarily hamper trade. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin set out the goal of improving Russia’s rating on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report from 120 to 20 by 2018.
U.S. Department of Commerce trade agreement expert Bryan O’Byrne explained that the principles of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT) can improve Russia’s ease-of-doing-business outlook by increasing transparency through notice-and-comment of new regulations to the WTO. Notice-and-comment provides companies with an advanced warning on regulatory changes and allows companies to provide feedback to regulators on implementing less trade restrictive measures, while meeting the same level of safety or higher.
Another key TBT Agreement principle is the need to use globally relevant standards in regulation, which are more commonly used by companies around the world. This provides greater market access, and can help domestic companies become more competitive. During sector-focused panel discussions, Russian regulators responded positively to a U.S. private sector recommendation to consider adopting a globally relevant standard to increase fire safety for the petroleum industry.
For more information on the event and our partner organizations, go to: http://wto.wtcmoscow.ru/en/novosti/1004